As summer is drawing to an end (it always seems to do that way too soon) I find myself savoring every last drop of it.
There is something particularly magical about summertime and horses. For me, summer is a time to decompress after a busy Florida show season. It gives me the opportunity to focus more on training and less on showing, while getting a chance to reconnect with my inner "horse kid." There is something about lazy summer evenings that makes me want to hang around the barn a little bit longer, and just enjoy the relaxing company of the horses.
I am so lucky to be able to call the Thomas family's River Grove Farm in Idaho my home for the summers. Their amazing facility is nestled up against the base of soaring mountains, with arenas scattered throughout the property. Trails go through the woods and down to the meandering river that runs through the property.
It is a quiet and peaceful place to focus on training, and there is nothing I treasure more than being able to head out for an early morning trail ride before schooling a horse, or having our "Friday play days" when we ride our horses out in the big jumper ring and get up into a two-point so they can gallop and play a bit.
You can see the joy in the horses' expressions when we let them move out like that. I think it is so critical to do everything in our power to keep the horses happy, fresh and interested in their work by varying their routine. It seems that the more we get the horses out of the arena to have fun, the better their work in the arena becomes. After a summer in the Idaho mountains, our horses are refreshed and ready to hit the Florida circuit again with a renewed spark.
This is not to say that we aren’t working during the off-season here. My day starts at the barn before 8 a.m., and I usually ride between eight and 10 horses a day. I finish up at River Grove at 5 p.m., then head out to teach my students at nearby barns. I usually finish up around 7 p.m., thoroughly exhausted but quite happy.
I love teaching anyone who is really passionate and motivated, whether they have a fancy horse or a backyard buddy. I wouldn’t work such long hours if I didn’t love it, and it's hard to say "no" when you have so many enthusiastic people seeking your help.
When we are in Florida, I work seven days a week, but at home in Idaho for the summer, I make it a point to keep my weekends free to play and enjoy our beautiful mountains. Horses aren’t the only ones that need some play days, after all! I have filled up every weekend with hiking, camping, concerts and good friends.
I have a very fun group of horses coming up and the work they are starting to give me is quite exciting. I enjoy the training process so much, and it is such fun to watch these horses, who were gangly 5-year-olds just a few years ago, become "grown ups" and transform into elegant and powerful FEI horses.
This summer has been particularly exciting because of some talented new equine partners that came my way. I am very excited about the wonderful 8-year-old stallion we call Vinny (bought by the syndicate group of Yamazaki/Juliano/Hlavacek/Garcia-Canavino).
I have been having a great time getting to know him and beginning to build a relationship with him. He is such a gentleman and so talented, and I am very excited to work with such an incredible horse. I am also thrilled to have two additional horses belonging to Betsy Juliano with us now.
They are Horizon, an 8-year-old Oldenburg mare (Hotline x Don Shufro), and Riccidoff, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Riccione x Don Davidoff).
I feel so fortunate to enjoy these talented additions to our herd, as well as the wonderful people with whom they are connected. They have made my summer here even more special, and I'm looking forward to what the future holds for them.